Why do we fail at new year resolutions?

Getting healthy for the new year or managing finance better tend to be the most popular resolutions for people and surveys suggest only 8% of people who set resolutions tend to be successful. Why?


1st January - when New Year resolutions begin (Image credit Brook Larke via Unsplash)

For some of us at this time of year we can set huge expectations that we “must” or “should” make ourselves different. We can get carried away, and understandably so, with the huge marketing effort that stokes up desires, at this time of year, that becoming different is somehow expected. But this isn’t a great reason to be setting New Year resolutions and the reason we fail is that we don’t really believe we can do it or know the reasons for why we are doing them in the first place.

For some of us new year resolutions are just a thing of fun and we don’t take them too seriously because we “know” we will fail them anyway!


But whatever our reasons we can easily get carried away in the moment and often set unrealistic goals. For example, setting a goal to go to the gym five times per week when you normally go only once or twice a month might be just too hard. We can find ourselves justifying failure – “oh its just a new year resolution” - but you may still be left with feelings of failure and thinking you’re not living up to your true potential and this impact how we feel about ourselves, our confidence levels and possibly self-worth. For some of us there maybe additional feelings of shame and guilt. To be successful we need realistic and achievable goals and psychologically we need to want to be successful.


How to do New Year resolutions successfully:


Set realistic goals as often we set unrealistic goals, unrealistic timescales with no clear start or end point. Successful change tends to happens in small chunks and over time. Set yourself simple goals and then scale up your goals as you succeed, for example, if you are already a runner and regularly doing 5ks deciding to do a 10k maybe a stretch but you may perceive it as achievable and then moving to a half marathon when you successfully already going your 10k runs so change is incremental and you enjoy every small success as you journey possibly to a full marathon!


Believe in yourself, your goals and have a positive attitude. To achieve any goal you need to have faith that you can do this. However New Year resolutions has a label attached to them of being something fun so you go into them with a light heartedness and this provides a mental frame that you can give up easily and an opportunity to justify failure.


Don’t wait until the new year to start your change especially if its something important like health and finance. Try not to label or associate them as New Year resolutions when there is more opportunity to fail.


Do it with someone else as social support can be really helpful and the partnership of sharing every success.


Say them out loud because this can give you some ownership and personal responsibility. They become more “sticky” than having them in your head or writing them down. Saying them out loud can make your New Year resolutions harder to break.


Be kind to yourself and continually review your goals and check in how you can make them more achievable and successful, because as you build on your success you become even more successful.


Do let me know how you get on with your New Year resolution planning, and if you're seeing it through I'd love to know how you're getting on.


JD x

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